Don’t stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby. Go to your baby a million times. Demonstrate that people can be trusted, that the environment can be trusted, that we live in a benign universe.
— Peggy O’Mara
Maggie is four weeks old today. I can hardly believe it. I specifically remember when she was four days old (because this song kept running through my head), home two days, and thinking we’d never make it to four weeks. This is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done.
I think this is where I’m supposed to say, “But it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done.” And it is, but some days, it doesn’t feel that way. Some days I feel like a total failure as a mom. There was the day she was in her swing and David went to check on her, only to find her soaked with spit up and in a blown out diaper, and even though we’d been within earshot, we had no idea it happened or how long she’d been sitting in it. There was the middle of the night she screamed and screamed while I was changing her diaper and in my utter exhaustion and desperation not to wake her father, I told her repeatedly to shut up. There was the time at 5 days old that I cut her fingernails for the first time and, on my 10th finger, clipped the skin of her thumb, and then discovered at her two-week check up that I’d inadvertently caused three infected hangnails. There were the times – yes, plural – when I was feeding her when I had to yell for David to come take her from me because I was losing my mind with frustration and was afraid I would hurt her.
Look, she’s alive, right? So that has to count for something, but this shit is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you different. And it’s hard for a lot of different reasons, chiefly sleep deprivation, but also because she’s a BABY and she is NEW and she cannot react to you the way you might imagine a tiny baby will. She does not smile or laugh or squeal with delight or really even acknowledge my presence. All she does right now is take, and she takes EVERYthing I’ve got – time, sleep, milk, brain cells, patience. Oh, and she cries. Her cries are piercing and sometimes there is just nothing I can do to make her stop, which only adds to the feeling that I am a bad mom.
At four weeks, though, we are settling into each other, beginning to understand each other better. I’m less frustrated and scared than I was, and I’m remembering to take a deep breath when I’m getting to the end of my patience. I’m reminding myself that she’s just a baby – she has no agenda, she’s incapable of manipulation – and the only way she has to tell me she needs something is to cry, and it’s my job as her mother to figure out the problem and fix it. It’s humbling, to be brought low by this tiny creature and to realize how completely she depends on and trusts me.
Is this the part where I’m supposed to say that, despite how hard it is, I love her more than I ever thought possible? Because I do.